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Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Nine Lives of Travis Keating, written by Jill MacLean. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008. $11.95 ages 10 and up

"Guilt's like the undertow at Gulley Cove - once it's got you, it works you over. I hate your dirty I see why people buy those time travel books where the hero goes back into the past and changes the way things happened. Wish I could go backward and get rid of the snow. No point in wishing I had the nerve to take off on Dad's Ski-Doo, There's limits."

Had I not met Sigrid Sugden (The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2013), I might never have moved Travis and his story to the top of my TBR pile. Isn't that the best thing about finding an author to admire?

Travis' story is sure to capture your attention, and keep you reading until you can close the book and think back on the characters who people his new town of Ratchet, NL, and the events that help to make it 'home' for Travis and his dad.

Told in first person, and allowing readers to feel the pain and hurt that come from such important issues as death, bullying, abuse and an unwanted move, Travis is a character to be admired. He is only 11, and a victim of circumstances that seem to be beyond his years and his own control; his actions lead him to find new friends, make some dangerous decisions, and eventually show his true character.

New in town, Travis becomes the next target for bully Hud Quinn and his pals. Life is not going to be easy. He does make friends with Prinny, a young girl whose family circumstances make her an object of ridicule for classmates and lead to her being ostracized by them, and with Hector, whose mother is over-protective and rarely allows Hector any independence. When told that Gulley Cove is haunted, Travis is determined to find out for himself. There, he finds feral cats in need of care, and sets himself the task of being sure they are fed.

He is able to enlist the help of both new friends to feed and water the cats, all the while knowing that if his father discovers that he is wandering so far afield, he is going to be in big trouble. Bad weather, expensive cat food, and wild dogs are slight problems when compared to the havoc that Hud can create, and does.
Ms. MacLean develops complicated, worthy characters who are real and gritty. They face complex issues that motivate their actions, thus making them memorable to those who know their stories. They are definitely worthy of our admiration, each and every one of them.

A perfect readaloud for any intermediate classroom, this is a book that will spark feelings of goodwill and community for those children who spend their school days together. Could we ask for more than that?

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